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NSFAS Funding Crisis: More Than 23,000 Students Lose Support

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NSFAS Funding Crisis: More Than 23,000 Students Lose Support

NSFAS Funding Crisis: More Than 23,000 Students Lose Support. In a distressing turn of events, over 23,000 students faced the harsh reality of losing their NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) funding this year. The NSFAS, a critical gateway to tertiary education in South Africa, grapples with a series of issues that have left students and institutions in dire straits.

The Importance of NSFAS

The NSFAS bursary program extends beyond covering tuition fees. It also provides allowances to students for essential expenses such as accommodation, transport, and learning materials.

Challenges Faced by NSFAS

NSFAS has encountered several significant challenges, which have triggered a ripple effect across the education landscape.

Delayed Disbursement of NSFAS Allowances

One primary concern is the delay in disbursing NSFAS allowances to students. This delay is a matter of utmost concern, as many students rely on these allowances for their sustenance, especially those studying far from home.

When probed about this issue by a member of Parliament, the Department shared that NSFAS had deployed two teams led by senior officials to visit a selection of 10 universities and 20 TVET Colleges over ten days in September. The purpose was to engage with students and institutions regarding the challenges they face. The Department also highlighted that NSFAS has initiated ongoing dialogues with student leaders in areas where these issues persist.

A key reason for these delays is the implementation of a new direct payment system by NSFAS, which has drawn numerous complaints from students. This system has resulted in both delays and excessive bank charges, significantly affecting students’ financial stability.

Concerns Over High Bank Charges With NSFAS Direct Payment System

Addressing the concerns related to exorbitant bank charges, the Department explained that service providers impose a fixed monthly fee of R12 for a specific bundle of transactions. Furthermore, additional charges stem from students’ transactional behavior, such as repeated balance inquiries or excessive transactions. This has resulted in students allegedly being charged up to R174, well beyond the R12 admin fee agreed upon by the South African Union of Students (SAUS).

Defunding of NSFAS Students

Another grave issue is the defunding of NSFAS students, which affected more than 28,000 students since January 1, 2023.

The Department attributed the defunding to various factors, including students not meeting the new Financial Eligibility criteria after a re-assessment using updated SARS data, rejections based on updated Academic Eligibility assessment results, and students exceeding the N+ rule.

Conclusion

Universities South Africa (USAf) voiced concerns about the mid-academic year defunding of students, stating that it has created significant challenges for both students and universities. This sudden defunding has led to frustration among students and staff, contributing to institutional instability.

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